Brief history
Only 300 years ago the land that is now known as Kuwait City, was settled. The Al-Sabah family, whose descendants now rule Kuwait, were appointed to handle local law and order. By the early 19th century, Kuwait was a thriving trading port and though official Kuwaiti history is adamant that the sheikhdom was always independent of the Ottomans, some say differently. During the second half of the 19th century, the Kuwaitis generally got on well with the Ottomans. They managed to avoid being absorbed into the empire as the Turks sought to solidify their control of eastern Arabia (then known as Al-Hasa). They did, however, agree to take the role of provincial governors of Al-Hasa. That decision led to the rise of the pivotal figure in the history of modern Kuwait: Shaikh Mubarak al-Sabah al-Sabah, commonly known as Mubarak the Great, who reigned from 1896 to 1915. Mubarak signed an agreement with Britain. In exchange for the British navy's protection, he promised not to give away territory to, take support from or negotiate with any other foreign power without British consent. Kuwait spent the early 1920s fighting off the army commanded by Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al-Saud, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia. In 1923 the fighting ended with a British-brokered treaty. As a result, an oil concession was granted in 1934 to a US-British joint venture. The first wells were sunk in 1936, and by 1938 it was obvious that Kuwait was virtually floating on oil. The outbreak of WWII forced the Kuwait Oil Company to suspend operations, but when oil exports took off after the war so did Kuwait's economy. As the country became wealthy, health care, education and the general standard of living improved dramatically.

On 19 June 1961 a treaty was signed with the British and Kuwait became an independent state. Elections for the first National Assembly were held the following year. Despite political and economic tensions, by mid-1990 the country's economic prospects looked bright, particularly when the eight-year Iran-Iraq war ended. So it came as a shock when on 16 July 1990 Iraq sent a letter to the secretary-general of the Arab League accusing Kuwait of exceeding its OPEC quota and of stealing oil from the Iraqi portion of an oil field straddling the border. Iraqi president Saddam Hussein threatened military action. Two weeks later Iraqi tanks were in Kuwait City before dawn on 2 August, and by noon they had reached the Saudi frontier. The emir and his cabinet fled to Saudi Arabia.

At the end of November, the US and the UK secured a UN resolution authorising the use of force to drive Iraq out of Kuwait if the Iraqis did not leave voluntarily before 15 January 1991. The deadline passed, the Iraqis didn't budge and within hours waves of Allied (mostly US) aircraft began a five-week bombing campaign of Iraq and Kuwait. At the end of February, Allied forces arrived in a Kuwait City choked by clouds of acrid black smoke from the hundreds of oil wells the Iraqis had torched as they retreated. The Kuwaiti government set about rebuilding Kuwait and elections for a new National Assembly took place in October 1992 that was won by the opposition, though the Al-Sabah family retained control of the key defence, foreign affairs and interior ministries. By the second anniversary of the invasion, Kuwait had largely succeeded in erasing the physical scars of war and occupation, although tensions with Iraq remained high. Today, many resources are being used to remove land mines and clean up environmental damage left over from the Iraqi retreat, subsidised by the UN to the tune of US$5.9 billion. Ten percent of oil revenues are, by law, put into a trust to prepare for the day that Kuwait's massive oil reserves dry up.

Source Lonely Planet

Air Force

The current air force that we know of now started as the Security Department of Kuwait which operated a number of Austers in different configurations and two DeHavilland DH104 Dove's. The Kuwait Air Force and Air Defence was formed in the course of 1961 following an intervention by the British that avoided Iraq to claim Kuwait as one of its provinces. The first aircraft to enter KAF service were four Whirlwind helicopters and six BAC/Hunting Jet Provost T.51s. This support from the UK would remain in place for a long time and 1964 was known for the arrival of the first Hawker Hunters. These would later be amended by more examples in 1969. The first DeHavilland Canada type to enter KAF service was the DHC-4 Caribou from which two arrived in 1963. The transport capacity would later be improved by the acquisition of an ex-RAF Argosy in 1969 and later, in 1971, by two Lockheed L-100-20 Hercules. In the meantime the fighter force was given a boost by the procurement of twelve Lightning F53s and two T55 trainer versions that were delivered in the late 60s. The Strikemaster Mk.83s from which twelve were ordered were delivered in 1969. Between 1968 and 1977 two Bell 206's operated in KAF service and from November 1969, eight Agusta Bell 205s were delivered, replacing the ageing Whirlwinds. Only five years after the delivery of the Lightings, the KAF decided it needed a better serviceable aircraft. It had been using the Hunters and the Strikemasters in the interceptor and ground strike role, rather than the Lightnings. Finally in 1974 the Mirage F1 was selected as the new Air Defence fighter and a total of 27 Mirage F1CKs and seven Mirage F1BKs were ordered and delivered in two separate batches until 1983. The ground strike role would be filled in by the total of 36 Douglas (T)A-4KU Skyhawks that were ordered in 1974 and delivered during 1977. 24 SNIAS SA342K Gazelles were delivered during the mid-70s and four were subsequently passed on to the Police Air Wing. Four L-100-30 Hercules transport aircraft were delivered in 1983, replacing the shorter L-100-20 version from which only one survived (the other crashed in France). Also in 1983, twelve Hawk T64 were ordered to fill the gap that the KAF had on training capacity. In 1988 the Air Force was baptised al-Quwwat al-Jawwiya al-Kuwaitiya (Kuwait Air Force). The lead-in-fighter-trainer that was selected, The Shorts Tucano T.52, would only be delivered in 1995. They were earmarked for delivery in 1990 but due to the break-out of the Gulf War, deliveries were postponed. After the Gulf War, the KAF underwent a reorganisation and both the Douglas A-4 Skyhwaks and the Dassault Mirage F1s were soon phased out in favour of the McDonnell Douglas F-18 Hornet. 32 F/A-18Cs and eight F/A-18D Hornets are flying with 9sq and 25sq from Ahmed al Jaber. The Mirages is are withdrawn from use and stored. Most of the remaining Skyhawks continued their operational life with the Brazilian Navy. The first six of sixteen ordered AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters were handed over to the Kuwait Air Force on 3 February 2006. The remaining ten aircraft were delivered thereafter. All the helicopters are preconfigured to carry the AN/APG-78 Longbow radar kits.

Photo: Erwin van Dijkman


The Kuwait Police Helicopter Wing has a small helicopter fleet that has recently expanded. They operate four AS365, two EC135 and two EC225 are the last acquisitions.

Photo: Erwin van Dijkman

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